Friday, December 24, 2010

Tonight We Enter Into The Church

Tonight Laura and I will be baptized at 6 PM at Saint George Orthodox Church of Prescott. For myself it will be the third time in my life I have taken the plunge. Typically one is only baptized once, however, the prior two times I was baptized, I was taught I was only doing something purely symbolic. "An outward expression of an inward faith." Tonight Laura and I will become members of the church Christ established in the Gospels, initiated by a baptism that is not purely symbolic, but effectual on our path of salvation. Baptism is the door leading into the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-5) and through which we are mystically born into spiritual life.

In the early church people entering the Christian faith, called catechumens, would go through a period of preparation called catechism, receiving instruction about the doctrine and life of the church, that could sometimes last up to three years. Catechism was taken very seriously by the early church. Persecution was rampant and days after you became a part of the church you may be killed for doing so. Catechumens would also choose sponsors or God parents. These sponsors would assist and guide the catachumen in his new life amongst the church. At baptism the sponsor would then stand as a witness to the sincere intentions and belief of the person to be baptized. Laura has chosen George and Lola Rizk. I have chosen Raymond and Jill Zogob. And we couldn't be happier with our choices.

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38

The baptismal service will mirror the structure of this verse: first, repent; second, be baptized; and third, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Like the millions of faithful before us, we will do the same.

The Sacrament of Baptism is divided into two distinct services: The Service of the Catachumens (link to service)and the Service of Baptism(link to service). In this first section we are standing in the narthax, positioned so we are both in and out of church. We will then be asked if we renounce the Devil and align our selves to God. After saying yes, we will bow before God, recite the Nicene creed, and enter in to the Church proceeding towards the baptismal waters.

At the beginning of the Service of Baptism, our priest, Father John, will then bless the baptismal water and the oil. He will pray over us, anoint us with oil, and then we will be immersed three times in the water with the words, "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." We will plunge into the water - dying with Christ.  For a moment we will remain under the water - buried with Christ. Finally we will be raised out of the water - raised with Christ.

We will then go change into our baptismal clothes which have been blessed by Father John. Having put of the old and putting on the new, we will come back into the congregation. We will be annointed with chrism and sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, fullfilling in us and all the faithful, Joel 2:28, "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh".

We will then be tonsured which means our hair will be clipped in the form of a cross. We are then lead in a circular procession around the baptismal font, like a couple does in a Orthodox wedding service. While we do this the congregation will sing Galatians 3:27, "All those who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ."

A section from Romans and the Gospel of Matthew will be read:
Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:3-11)

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (Matthew 28:16-20)
This will be followed by a vesperal liturgy in which Laura and I will be the first to partake of the Eucharist.

It has been a long journey through hills and valleys, trials and blessings, to get us to this moment. I think that once we have arrived, we will find we are just at the beginning.

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